Group proposes to fill Lake Mead by draining Lake Powell
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - A group of conservationists and scientists are proposing a drastic solution to save the Colorado River system and our drinking water: fill Lake Mead and drain Lake Powell.
The group Glen Canyon Institute published their proposal called “Fill Lake Mead First,” and has lobbied the Bureau of Reclamation for this solution.
“We need to start making plans for prioritizing Lake Mead. It’s the more important reservoir. If there isn’t enough water in the system to fill both Lake Powell and Lake Mead, we should prioritize storage in Lake Mead,” said Executive Director Eric Balken.
“We need to start planning for a major overhaul of the river system. And there’s just not going to be enough water to fill both Powell and Mead,” he said. “Even after this biblical water year where we had flows that were 170% of average, Lake Mead is still in a tier one shortage,” Balken said. He argues the change could prevent the evaporation that occurs in the waterways and end up saving water for millions.
Even if all the water from Lake Powell went into Lake Mead, the levels would only reach 70% full, he argues.
“After this massive snow year that we had last year, the combined storage of Powell and Mead is still only 36% full. So the Colorado River is really headed toward a serious crisis right now,” he said.
The Institute argues that the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell has been historically detrimental to the Grand Canyon ecosystem, and the dam has become less effective with shrinking water across the Colorado River. The more significant Hoover Dam, the Institute argues, could manage supplying the power grid instead. Lake Powell has also experienced serious drops in its waterways, rendering some boat ramps unusable.
FOX5 reached out to the bureau for comment on this proposal; Executive Director Eric Balken said officials are not keen to this solution. Balken does hope that officials seriously consider it in 2026, when the agreement between states in the Colorado River Compact finally expires.
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